This Month's Picks

Mt. Joy (CD)

Mt. Joy
As roots-based groups seem to fetishize analog recording in search of what "authentic" sounds like, Mt. Joy feels completely natural with their combination of Appalachian field recordings, '70s rock, and top 40 jams. Back in 2016, Mt. Joy smashed the Spotify play charts with "Astrovan," an instantly catchy single with bizarre lyrical imagery that's equal parts surreal, sad, and comical and seems to have been born from a few puffs of God's green herb. It's spacey with this Allman Bros. guitar twang channeled right out of their hits, along with Matt Quinn's doped-out vocals. Yet the production has all of today's modern flair without a hint of misguided nostalgia. Mt Joy's self-titled debut continues the style that's just as perfectly constructed as their first single. It shows off some good ol' fashioned songwriting prowess that's sorely missing from rock today. "I'm Your Wreck" opens the album with a heavy ballad and a vocal delivery reminiscent of early Bruce Springsteen. But the production is 100% today with a jangly, minimal style featuring muted drums, simple finger plucking, and acid alliteration. When the song starts to get into its funkier finale loaded with synths and more frenetic drumming, it almost takes a whole other route, becoming weird and beautiful at the same time. "Sheep" is one of the most beautiful tracks on the album and shows the influence of neo-soul with the Fender Rhodes providing gentle harmonies behind Quinn's powerful vocals. The song oozes with insecurity disguised by lyrics that start to delve into Bob Dylan level imagery and free association about being in disguise, bloody streets, and awkward encounters. Mt. Joy almost feels like a contemporary take on the post-folk artists of the '60s. Just like they used recognizable, comfortable sounds to reinvent the musical landscape, Mt. Joy spins roots and Americana into something special and relevant. In the age of over-produced, over-electronic music, Mt. Joy's homespun weirdness feels cozy and right. More
Genre: Rock

Love Is Dead (CD)

Chvrches
Chvrches' Love Is Dead is sweet as candy, a goth-tinged Tootsie Roll pop with a crystalline surface and a dark, satisfying core. “Miracle” is an instant sing-along classic, while “My Enemy” and “Never Say Die” stand out as infectiously melancholy toe-tappers. These songs are anthemic, bold, and buoyant but it’s not bubblegum pop — no, there’s too much intelligence here, too much fusion of darkness and light. But damn if it doesn’t hit the spot! More
Genre: Rock

Wildness (CD)

Snow Patrol
One of the biggest UK rock bands of the post-Britpop era has been MIA for some time now. After competing with Coldplay for modern rock radio's adoration for the better part of a decade, it has been seven years since their last release, 2011’s Fallen Empires . With such an extended hiatus, it’s fair to wonder if the band could recapture that same brand of widescreen, yearning rock. And could the Snow Patrol of 2018 still sound relevant within this formula? As it turns out, you can have it both ways. Songs like “Empress” and “Life On Earth” are both dead ringers for the driving, meticulously-crafted yet effortless-sounding anthems that drove Eyes Open to the top of the pop stratosphere. Then there are songs like “Don’t Give In,” which don’t sound like quite like anything the band has previously written. While fitting the same lyrical motifs and general melancholic atmosphere that grace much of the band’s previous work, it utilizes an extremely modern arrangement with big, marching toms mixed with programmed drums, as well as canyon-sized reverb on the chorus; two now-ubiquitous alt rock production tricks virtually non-existent in the era of “Chasing Cars.” Wildness pulls off a delicate balancing act between the past and present. Impressive, certainly, but more importantly it’s catchy as all get-out. More
Genre: Rock

Worth It All (CD)

Jeffrey Osborne
Classic R&B vocalist and L.T.D. frontman, Jeffrey Osborne follows up his 2013 album of standards with a rich, new record, Worth It All . His first self-produced album in 13 years, Worth It All celebrates the ups and downs of a long-term relationship, with funky tracks like “Let A Brotha Know” and “Just Can't Stand It,” as well as lavish, sincere ballads such as “Saving My Love” and the title track; the latter is a lovely spare number with electric piano and vocals, the lyrics summing up the message behind the album. The sultry “Work It” was co-written with his son Jeffrey Osborne, Jr. who also raps on the track. More
Genre: Soul

Appreciation (CD)

Horse Feathers
Over the past decade, Horse Feathers has evolved from a duo crafting lonely, introverted folk tunes draped in delicate strings to a 10-piece ensemble fully embracing the jubilant sound of heartland rock on Appreciation . Just like the Americana-dwelling bands that came before them (not the least of which, The Band), all the signifiers are in place: honky-tonk piano, whining pedal steel, bright church organ, and a gospel-like conviction given to every word. The album feels so well worn and lived-in, it can be hard to avoid clichés in describing its familial pull. The hell with it, then: Appreciation feels like a friendly slap on the back. Appreciation feels like a campfire Kumbaya. Most of all, Appreciation feels like Horse Feathers’ most complete and realized statement yet. Crank it till the cows come home. More
Genre: Rock

Tomorrow's Daughter (CD)

Matthew Sweet
Matthew Sweet’s latest, Tomorrow’s Daughter , came from the same fruitful sessions that yielded last year’s excellent Tomorrow Forever . Opener “I Belong to You” sets the tone for the album; it’s upbeat, jangly, and pure, unadulterated power pop. Of course, the course of true love never did run smooth. Thus, a strain of melancholy does run through this jubilant, thoroughly enjoyable album, one of Sweet’s most well-rounded, finely tailored releases. You want love songs, you’ve come to the right place! More
Genre: Rock

Santa Rosa Fangs (CD)

Matt Costa
Matt Costa returns with his first full-length album in five years, Santa Rosa Fangs . There is sparser production here than on his 2013 release, but he maintains his upbeat, indie rock sound. Opening and closing with different versions of “I Remember It Well,” the album is about siblings growing up in California, drawn from his own experiences and those of people he's known. The feel-good single “Sharon” channels Tom Petty with its hooks and scrappy vocals. More
Genre: Rock

Electric Light (CD)

James Bay
In the three years since James Bay's debut,  Chaos and the Calm , his sophomore album finds him morphing into a whole other person. The good looking, sharply dressed singer-songwriter of the previous album has transformed into a sophisticated artist with equal touches of indie rock, '90s English rock, and neo-soul. Electric Light is the perfect second album that shows off delicately constructed songs that are light and catchy, but have thick textures and harmonics mixed with poetic, playful lyrics that elevate each track into Lorde-like jams. Yes, he's dropped the wide-brimmed hat and long hair for a sleeker look, but his songwriter is still what we came here for. "Pink Lemonade" is set to be a summer jam that plows forward with twangy guitars, distorted drums, and a melody that's destined to get stuck in your head. The lyrics are an ode to confused feelings of sexual frustration and longing with intensely vivid images of bodies and pathetic self-loathing that anyone who's gone through a rough relationship can relate to. But even when the song goes into quieter moments, the pace keeps picking up furiously and propels with this endless bass riff. Try to pull the chorus out of your ear after listening! But a ballad like "Us" demonstrates his emotional range as a songwriter with extraordinary sensitivity. Here he is a mellow soul singer, whispering "I believe in love." It all feels so insanely intimate that it's liable to cause a stir in your heart and even get you teary-eyed. When the song swells with lush strings, it overwhelms you with its profound sincerity. "Wild Love" is a perfect example of what he's been exploring the last three years. Less indie than any of his other songs, you hear the direct influence that an artist like Frank Ocean has left on pop music. The production is a powerhouse of weird and wild sounds that builds and builds until it ends with lonely sounding vocals. After hearing Electric Light , you'll hope you won't have to wait another three years for the next big leap by James Bay. More
Genre: Rock

Wide Awake! (CD)

Parquet Courts
It’s good to have Parquet Courts back. On Wide Awake! , the band sounds as fresh and energetic as ever before — and even more eclectic. The band’s signature lo-fi post-punk sound gets a little funkier, a little bit more cinematic, thanks to ever-so-slightly-polished production from Danger Mouse. It’s danceable, yes, but there’s also a real depth to the lyrical content, with the band delving into police brutality, climate change, gun violence, and political corruption. Wide Awake! is an intriguing evolution for this consistently-excellent band. More
Genre: Rock

Only For You (CD)

Nedelle Torrisi
Nedelle Torrisi, who collaborated with Sufjan Stevens and Ariel Pink, dives into dreamy indie pop with an '80s synth flavor on her new record. Accompanying herself on keys, guitar, and violin, she sings airily of self-discovery and love, with a sense of sophistication gleaned from her upbringing in jazz and classical music. The tracks are both summery and swoony with a late-night dance floor sensibility.More
Genre: Rock